Dutchman sets off to row the Pacific


Dutchman Ralph Tuijn set off into the sea off Peru in a rowing boat on Wednesday in an attempt to break a record by crossing the Pacific, where he will be up against sharks, violent winds and powerful currents. 34-year-old Tujin embarked from the beach resort of La Punta on a journey that he expects to last about 270 days and cover 13,000 kilometers between Peru and Brisbane, on the other side of the ocean. 

“I like to row, I like adventures and I have already crossed the Atlantic Ocean, leaving me just one that is bigger: the Pacific. That’s the main reason I’m doing this,” he told press, talking about what drives him to cross the world’s biggest ocean using just the power of his arms. The Dutchman, keen on nature and extreme sports, seems like a superman. He has covered 80,000km on his bicycle and in his rowing boat, never using more power than he can generate with his own body. 

“I’ve rowed the North Sea twice, and crossed Asia on a bicycle three times and Russia twice,” he said. Crossing the Pacific is the second stage of the Zeeman Ocean Challenge, set by the same Dutch textiles company that sponsored Zeeman on his voyage across the Atlantic from the Canaries to Curacao. Funds go to a children’s hospital in Mumbai run by save the children. 

His boat is 7.2m long and 1.9m wide, weighs little more than a ton and is fully equipped with solar panels, two satellite telephones, four GPS navigation systems, two VHF radio antennae and two EPIRB systems to raise the alarm in case of emergency – but no motor of any kind. “I also have two 100W sound systems, which are very important for keeping me awake. I asked my brother to put as much music as he could onto my Ipod,” said Tujin. 

Tujin treats winds, storms and currents with a good sense of humor, also joking about the dangers posed by animals such as the Great White Shark. “If the sharks are small, I try to get them into the boat and have them for my dinner, and if they’re big I scare them off as the sometimes rock the boat or bite it…. But if the wind of the currents change, they could dash my boat against the shore and break it into pieces,” he said. 

Tujin will maintain a rigid schedule of two hours rowing followed by two hours rest throughout the nine months of the voyage. He will use the rest time to cook, repair his boat, write articles and talk to his wife and two-year-old son. He will only be able to sleep for two hours each night, so as not to lose his course of be dragged into a current. Despite his calm attitude, Tujin knows that this is the biggest challenge he has ever faced, and that he is playing with his life. However, if he is successful his next plan is to cross the Indian Ocean. “But please don’t tell my wife,” he joked.

Winnie, who has been married to Tujin for just a year, smiled and assured press that “he won’t do it”, not because she says so but because the climate of the Indian Ocean makes it impossible to cross in a rowing boat. 

“I let him carry on doing things, it’s fine by me, I know that he likes it and that he’ll be coming back,” she said with a smile. “They generally say that I’m crazy,” acknowledged Tujin.

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